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176 articles in category Life / Subscribe

Marie walked onto the stage. She was a woman in her late thirties, and from the outside eyes, she was just like you and me, wearing glasses with black frame, having straight, black hair that rested on her shoulder.

With eyes looking down on her paper, Marie said, ‘I would like to first give a disclosure: I’m not condemning the Indonesians. I have forgiven and moved on. But this is my story of growing up in East Timor, and how I became a refugee here in Australia.’

She looked at us expectantly. The crowd sat in silence, with occasional whimper of children echoed in the auditorium hall. She began again, ‘I grew up in East Timor. When I was nine, the Indonesian military attacked us. Bombs were dropping. I was nine, and I was no stranger to seeing decomposing bodies on the street, sometimes with bullet wounds.’

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This semester was my weirdest so far.

I have two contact hours weekly and another two contact hours biweekly. I am supposed to meet with my thesis supervisor for one hour for every two weeks. That’s all.

But I have been in a state of busyness that surpasses all my previous eight semesters of uni.

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It’s weird that I don’t feel weird to come home to an empty apartment. On the contrary, I feel like everything’s still the same. My teal kettle was where I left it – there on the left side of the couch with my seventeen-hour old cup of Japanese green tea beside it.

I put my keys on the wooden bowl on top of the shoe cabinet, dumped my bag on the chair, reached my kettle and reboiled the water as it was still half full. I changed my clothes. I threw away the old tea bag, rinsed the cup a little bit and reached for another tea bag. I then collapsed on the sofa and turned on the TV. Just another day. Just another routine.

Everything’s changed though. Well, not everything. Something has. Today is the second day of me living alone. I’ve lived alone before, for approximately ten days when my sister went home for the holidays. This time, she went home, but she wasn’t going back to live with me.

She got married.

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1. Money is not the most important thing. Spend it when you can, with moderation, and enjoy life once in a while. Oh, and never spend what you don’t have.

2. Family is the most important thing. Dad always drills the lesson of ‘three is better than one’, and us three daughters are (too) close to each other.

3. When it comes to your friends asking to borrow money, either give it to them completely or don’t. Money is such a sensitive issue; it will ruin your friendship in the future.

4. Education is important. Or, in my Dad’s words: ‘As long as I can still provide for your education, go attain one, as high as you can. Money can run out, but knowledge enables you to make money again.’

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In a conversation earlier today with my close friend, I said this to her, ‘Good people make mistakes too.’ I was not trying to cover for the mistakes that people did, but at that time, I was thinking of what someone else told me, ‘Everyone is a good person, only if you wait long enough.’ So I said that to her.

But I think so. Generally speaking, I think everyone is good. Or probably. No one’s born evil, right? And deep down we all have this kind of morality where we want the greater good. Yes, we are selfish, but overall we are good. We are nice. Or nice enough.

Some hours later, I’m thinking about that sentence I said to my friend, and I’m thinking about it when I’m reading a book about writing. In the chapter titled, ‘Characters’, the author said that we ought to spend a lot of time in the head of the characters we create – what’s she like? Why’s she behaving a certain way when her coffee’s spilled?

And while reading that paragraph, I remembered something else that someone told me sometime ago: we always judge ourselves with the inside context, we always judge people based purely on their action.

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Every success article begins with the success, then the fact that their beginning is a rather humble one.

That it needs a lot of hard work.

But you know, the only hard work we’ve seen from their success is the one written in an interview at an article somewhere. ‘I’ve worked hard on it,’ the successful people say, which, doesn’t really show how hard they’ve worked.

Do they work on it for sixteen hours every day for twelve years? Do they go broke in the effort of pursuing their dreams? Do their nightmares involve failing, wondering if their art will ever going to take off?

Here’s the thing: deep down, we don’t want to do hard work – we all want to be the cool girls. Let me explain.

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Have you ever thought why you experience guilt, regret or shame?

I haven’t. But some weeks ago, a speaker at my church, who is also a writer, talked about why we, as humans, are haunted by the person we are. He said, ‘You experience guilt, shame or regret because you can imagine the person you can become.

‘As humans, we can re-imagine ourselves. We can imagine different lives, worlds and realities.’

Which means when you feel regret, you can always imagine yourself handling things better than you did. When you feel ashamed, you can always imagine yourself doing things differently.

This. Strikes. Home.

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I’m at that stage of life when I realise that I’m actually not that special. I’m just a regular post-graduate student – a lot have come before me and a lot will be coming after me.

I haven’t done anything monumental. I wake up at 9am and have my coffee, then proceed to either work on my thesis or work on something else. I cook food twice a week that will last me through the weekdays, and on the weekends I go on normal dates with my boyfriend.

So here’s the question: What now?

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Last month, I found myself going to Seven Seeds cafe for the second time that week.

My first visit was to buy coffee beans. And during that time, my eyes saw something else that I couldn’t quite get out of my head for the next day.

It was a barista apron.

I had just bought my first ever manual coffee machine using my own sweat. So when I laid my eyes on that expensive denim-bib-with-tan-coloured-faux-leather-straps-apron, I knew I was in love. I wanted one. I had to get one.

So the next day, I grabbed one of the aprons and proceeded to the cashier. The waitress made small talk. ‘This is a cool apron, who is it for?’

Instinctively, without even skipping a beat, I said, ‘It’s for my boyfriend.’

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My whole life I’ve always thought that I’m bold and courageous – the type of person who cares nothing about what others think of me.

Okay, probably it’s just my whole high school life.

I’ve always seen myself as that girl – the one who swims against the current, goes against the crowd. I grew up with two genius sisters: my first sister has a PhD in BioScience and my second sister is a medical doctor. I chose Arts.

If that’s not going against the current, I’m not sure what that is.

Fast-forward six years, and that same girl scored 96 per cent on agreeableness.

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